The International Young Women's Initiative (IYWI) is a student-run and student-funded organization that is committed to improving the lives and futures of young women working to step out of poverty in developing nations. The mission of IYWI is twofold:
- To provide financial assistance to exceptional young women pursuing a post-secondary education under extraordinary circumstances in global communities; and
- To provide guidance, leadership training and financial support to Silver Scholars who wish to combat the deleterious effect of poverty in their community though Community Development Projects.
In July 2012,22 people from New York University Silver School of Social Work traveled to Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte, Philippines: a lush, mountainous and geographically isolated region in the southeast-Asian archipelago. Headed by project leader, Dr. Robert Hawkins, PhD, (McSilver Assistant Professor in Poverty Studies), a team of 17 graduate students conducted a comprehensive community needs assessment which focused on international poverty reduction. For three weeks, NYU students and affiliates stayed in local villages collecting data through the relationships they built with local residents: families, students, teachers, nurses, midwives, government officials and hundreds of other community members. The people of Del Carmen face some of the highest rates of poverty not just in the Philippines, but also in the world, itself. Thus, many areas of serious needs"”from food scarcity to water cleanliness, from infant mortality to environmental destruction, from education access to chronic underemployment"”were identified and analyzed during the assessment. Yet, perhaps the most obvious thing identified during those three weeks, was how our experiences in Del Carmen had impacted us researchers and human beings. What was assessed immediately amongst the NYU team was our need to continue helping the people of this region long after our return to the States.
The International Young Women's Initiative's (YWI) financial sponsorship component, or the Silver Student Community Development Scholarship and Mentoring Program for Young Women, was originally designed for and inspired by five very talented women of Del Carmen: our 5 student translators, now known as the "Silver Scholars." Our student counterparts were our lifelines to the community, active members of our research and learning process, and beloved hosts. We were invited into their homes, introduced to their family members; we met their teachers, danced with them in the city square during fiesta, and welcomed with open arms into their lives and experiences. Ever passionate about helping and inspired to combat the effects of poverty in their communities, these young women were neither asked nor paid for their time: they volunteered to be a part of the NYU needs assessment. The Silver Scholars provided us with indescribable help at great personal expense, even accepting unexcused absences from school in order to help us. Without their efforts, community expertise and passion, the needs assessment would never have been possible.
The International Young Women's Initiative (IYWI) was created not just in honor or thanks to the Del Carmen student translators: it was also created to provide a stable helping effort in the region, a method by which to continue to help the area on lager scales, and facilitate the continued development of mutually beneficial global partnerships between the people of Del Carmen and the students of New York University Silver School of Social Work.
Through personal contributions and grassroots fundraising, NYU student mentors have committed themselves to funding 5 Silver Scholars for the entirety of their undergraduate education, until completion. In addition to providing a complete tuition scholarship, this fund will also include school fees, books, supplies, boarding and transportation for each of the Silver Scholars.
In addition to funding their education, the NYU student mentors of the International Young Women's Initiative (IYWI) aim to support their scholars in the funding, design and implementation of a Community Development Project in their area. This project, made possible through international networking and partnerships, enables the Silver Scholars themselves to alleviate the effects of extreme poverty in their own communities. By working on the local level to address issues such as unemployment, community revitalization, malnutrition, clean water acquisition, health advocacy for women and children, housing/homelessness, public education reform, ecological devastation, and much more, the International Young Women's Initiative (IYWI) aims to empower their scholars to take control of their own futures, and open doors of opportunity for their community at large.
SNCST"”Del Carmen. Home camps of the Del Carmen Silver Scholars.http://www.sncst.com/
Del Carmen Municipality Website.
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